This Criminal’s Black Eyeball Tattoo Caught the Internet On Fire


Usually, criminals looking strange and otherworldly is something we only see in movies and television shows. Most of the time, criminals look exactly like everyone else, and you have no way of knowing exactly what they are doing or what crime they are plotting (always a cheerful thought).

That’s not the case with Jason Barnum, though. This convict has a black eyeball tattoo that helped to make him famous (and more than a bit infamous). And while the story of his crimes remains crazy, it’s that mysterious black eyeball that still has everyone talking.

Just what did Barnum do to get locked up? What’s the story of his tattoo, and what could happen if you tried to get similar ink? Keep reading to discover the answers!

Meet Jason Barnum

The world didn’t really become aware of Jason Barnum until 2012. That is when he appeared in court for one of his more outlandish previous crimes: shooting a police officer in Anchorage, Alaska.

The police were already on his case when Barnum decided to hole up in a motel in Anchorage, Alaska. We’re not sure how he expected things to go down (he was on drugs at the time…more on this later) when multiple police officers came to the motel to investigate some nearby burglaries and car break-ins.

Whatever he was (or wasn’t) thinking, Barnum emerged from a motel bathroom and began firing at the officers. And what happened next would be right at home in an action movie from a summer blockbuster!

The explosive story of his arrest

When the cops entered the motel room, they weren’t aware that Barnum was there or even that he was the exact man they were looking for. They heard a woman in the bathroom retching due to apparent sickness, and that was when Barnum emerged from behind her and opened fire on the police.

The cops made a tactical retreat from the room, but not before Barnum shot Officer Dan Thyen in the back. At this point, Barnum was effectively trapped in his own room, allowing the police to evacuate the motel guests and call in a SWAT team. Perhaps realizing how a confrontation with SWAT would end, Barnum ended up surrendering himself into police custody. 

How he earned his nickname

Given what you know about Jason Barnum, you may not be surprised to discover that his nickname is “Eyeball.” Given his black eyeball tattoo, the name makes sense, but how did this particular nickname go viral?

It all goes back to the moment we mentioned earlier: Barnum’s appearance in court for the shooting of Officer Thyen. Most of the world didn’t yet know what Barnum had done, but his heavily tattooed face and black eyeball tattoo made images of his face go viral. Pretty soon, “Eyeball” was the nickname that people around the world were using to refer to him.

How drug addiction led to a violent crime spree

In case you were wondering why Jason Barnum committed these heinous crimes, the primary answer is that he was addicted to heroin at the time. While this doesn’t explain his decision to get such a dangerous (more on this soon) eyeball tattoo, it does provide context for some of his wilder crimes.

For example, his crime spree was more ambitious than most realized. In order to pay for his heroin addiction, Barnum was stealing cars, burglarizing homes, stealing from motel guests, and just generally being a bad dude. He capped all this off by shooting a cop, and he ultimately got sentenced to 22 years in prison.

The ongoing mystery of the eyeball tattoo

After he surrendered to authorities, it was easy enough for the authorities to get to the bottom of Barnum’s various crimes. But one major mystery remained: just where the hell had he gotten that black eyeball tattoo from?

Interestingly, Barnum never actually provided an answer to this question. Many assume it’s some kind of prison tattoo (he had been in prison before), but if so, it’s much more dangerous and potentially even deadly than the kind of ink that prisoners usually end up getting on the inside.

Is getting your eyeball tattooed like this safe?

Just in case you love tattoos and feel inspired by Jason Barnum’s nearly demonic look, we feel obligated to warn you that it’s not safe to get such a tattoo. In fact, most reputable tattoo artists won’t even try because of how dangerous this tattoo can really be.

What makes it so dangerous? In the absolute worst case, you could lose your eyeball outright. Even if you don’t lose the eye, you could permanently lose the vision in that eye, making it completely useless to you. In some cases, the procedure could leave you with so much otherwise permanent pain that the only way to deal with it would be to have your eye surgically removed, meaning that even a successful eyeball tattoo could still lead to you losing the eye!

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